November 15 2021
“Do not go gentle into that good night…..rage, rage at the dying of the light”, wrote Dylan Thomas. I think not. I hope I am able to go gently when my time comes-go with an acceptance that death is an inevitable part of life. Every living thing must die-we are all just occupying fragments of time and energy in the grand scheme of the universe. Contrary to what one might think, this is a comfort to me, my time is a blessing, my only job is to spend it well. It means that life is everything.
What engendered this philosophical train of thought (yes, it’s plants!) was me mentioning to a friend that I was contemplating having a large spruce tree in my front yard cut down. She commented that the tree was sacred and I shouldn’t touch it. There are several logical reasons to remove this sixty foot tall spruce; it’s under power wires and is continually pruned into a C shape, it is southeast of my house and shades it all winter but no shade in summer, and it’s extensive roots take up all the moisture and nutrients and almost nothing will grow anywhere within 15-20’ of the trunk. The main reason to leave it is that it is a good screen between our house and the highway. Then I had to ask myself whether I believed it was indeed sacred. In keeping with my go gently philosophy, perhaps this tree is simply one more life whose time is up, Maybe life is that simple. I will be able to plant many small trees, shrubs and perennials in the space of that one tree. Plus, I’ve already planted several new spruce, fir and pine trees on the north and west where they will break the force of the winter wind and the hot afternoon summer sun.
An easy way to tell the difference between these conifers is to remember that spruce needles are square (in cross section) and stiff and that fir needles are flat and soft. Pines have longer needles as a rule and come in clusters of 2-5, not singly on the twig. These lovely trees that give us the gift of green in the winter are a real blessing. People have been bringing evergreens into the house for thousands of years. Celtic people (since about 600 or more BC) decorated evergreen trees with nuts, fruits, and coins at the onset of winter (shortest day of the year)to ensure a good year. Early Romans decorated their temples with evergreen branches to celebrate Saturnalia, a festival honoring Saturn, the god of agriculture. Interestingly, German immigrants to America brought with them the custom of bringing evergreens into the home and decorating them at Christmas-a practice condemned by the Puritans as pagan.
I think it’s this particular tree’s time to go. Every atom of that tree will come around again in another form, just the same as the 84 minerals and 23 elements that make up every human body, they are not destroyed. Inevitably, life moves on.
Spruce-Picea Fir-Abies Pine-Pinus
All members of the Pine family, Pinaceae.